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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eilat terror attacks brought back memories

Sarah Honig reports that last week's terror attacks in Eilat brought back memories of another terror attack that took place at Maaleh Akrabim on March 17, 1954.
What just transpired on the way to Eilat is chillingly reminiscent of the bloodshed of March 17, 1954 – long before Israel’s 1967 victory and subsequent denunciations of so-called occupation.

Egged bus No. 1383 was winding its way up back to Tel Aviv from Eilat, where the passengers had taken part in Eilat’s fifth birthday celebrations. They marked the anniversary of the closing phase of the War of Independence, when the makeshift ink flag was hoisted over what would become the country’s southernmost point. The bus was decorated with a banner: “Egged’s salutations to the Negev pioneers.”

One of the two drivers along for the trip, Ephraim “Fiska” Furstenberg, had brought his wife Hannah and children Haim, nine, and Miri, five, with him. Baby Tzippi was left with relatives. Fiska dreamt of moving the family to Eilat and becoming the first Egged cooperative member to take up residence in the haunting wilderness of that outlying embryo township.

But different plans were hatched by the Fedayeen – the moniker adopted in those days by predecessors of today’s Fatah, Hamas and their assorted offshoots.

It means “self-sacrificers,” which calls to mind the Shahids (martyrs) and suicide bombers of the current vogue.

On the single old route to Eilat in those days, approximately 100 kilometers south of Beersheba, the scorpions struck. Twelve Fedayeen ambushed the bus, ironically at a spot called Ma’aleh Akrabim – Scorpions’ Pass.

They first aimed at the duty driver, Kalman Esroni, who in his last seconds of life managed to prevent the vehicle from tumbling over the cliff. After spraying the bus with intense gunfire, they boarded it and finished off everyone there, or so they assumed. They proceeded to verify the 11 kills, mutilate the corpses and steal everything in sight. They tossed Hannah out of the bullet-riddled bus and hacked off her fingers, because they couldn’t otherwise remove her wedding band.

Unbeknownst to them, Haim and Miri remained alive behind the rear seat – Miri underneath the body of a soldier who threw himself over the child to shield her. Haim raised his head and asked: “Did they go?” But the sound of the boy’s voice betrayed him. The gunmen returned and took callous aim, directly at his head.

Miri, who remained hidden, was spared. Haim took over 32 years to die. He was left in an irreversible vegetative state and lingered on until September 4, 1986.

The attackers’ tracks led to the Jordanian border, but the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan/Israel Mixed Armistice Commission (HJK/IMAC) couldn’t bring itself even to lightly rap Jordan’s knuckles. No surprise here.

Meanwhile, equally unsurprisingly, inside Israel another surreal debate raged about whether to retaliate or, in the words of then-premier Moshe Sharett, “underscore the qualitative moral difference between us and our heartless enemies” (not that foreigners were much impressed – even before we were demonized as imperialist ogres).
Read the whole thing.

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At 11:32 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Even in its Zionist bloom, it was difficult for Israel to defend itself for much the same reason that constrains it from defending itself today: fear of world opinion. And innocent Jews end up paying the price for the Israeli government's cowardice.


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